HE has spent decades delving inside the heads of criminals and murderers for his best-selling detective series.

Now Peter James is turning his pen to equally enigmatic territory, exploring the supernatural with a new ghost story.

The House on Cold Hill sees the best-selling crime writer draw on his own personal experience of living in a haunted house.

The 66-year-old creator of the Roy Grace detective series called an exorcist to his house in Sussex in the late 1980s.

The author and his wife had become spooked by the "grey lady" in a crinoline dress supposedly haunting the home.

She said: “At the time I knew a wonderful character, canon Dominic Walker, who was vicar of Brighton and then a chief exorcist.

“He came to the house and said very firmly into thin air: 'You may go now.' Then he turned to me and said, ‘You should be fine now’.”

However, it was not the only supposed haunted house he has lived in, with his office in another home found to be on top of a Battle of Lewes burial ground.

He said: “In a sense I am much more scared of living people than I am of dead people, given the level of violence in the world. But there were times in both houses when I did feel pretty uncomfortable.”

The House on Cold Hill sees a couple move from the heart of Brighton into the Sussex countryside, where the home's dark history slowly reveals itself.

As well as his own personal experience, the book draws on his long-standing interest in the supernatural - something he does not think should be dismissed.

He said: “I think that we know so little about the human brain and the mind. It is very easy to sniff at things – it is much harder to take something seriously.”

He has also seen hard-nosed detectives turn to the other side, while researching for his books.

He said: “I remember years ago asking a assistant chief constable if police use psychics.

“He said a good police officer has to be open minded.

"If a clairvoyant phones the incident room and says she believes she has information – if you have tried everything else and she does not sound like a nutter, you would be derelict not to look into it.”

Turn to page 30 for Peter James' spooky account of living in his haunted homes and don't miss next Saturday's Argus for an extract from the book.